News Roundup for February 16, 2018

February 16, 2018

Receive the roundup in your inbox every morning!

Top News and Analysis

Trump’s Political Retribution Threatens Palestinian Lives and Israeli Security, Roll Call

Rep. David Price and Rep. Peter Welch write, “The Trump administration’s decision to withhold funding from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, or UNRWA, abandons millions of vulnerable refugees, jeopardizes Israel’s security and undermines the credibility and interests of the United States in the Middle East….Shortsighted political vengeance is unlikely to compel acquiescence from the Palestinians or anyone else. Meanwhile, it jeopardizes the well-being of millions of Palestinian refugees, including hundreds of thousands of children. We cannot allow bruised egos or threatening tweets to endanger our nation’s interests and the security of our allies. The stakes are far too high.”

The Police Case Against Bibi Netanyahu, New Yorker

Bernie Avishai writes, “Given the political atmospherics produced by these scandals, Netanyahu has no play left other than to double down on the ideological right and hope that the cases against him can be dragged out, while his coalition partners, for want of alternatives, stay in line. He may succeed, but his immediate fate is in the hands of politicians, not judges….That era may not be coming to an end, but, if it is, this may be what the beginning of the end looks like. It is hard to see how Netanyahu regains his footing without kicking at institutions that most Israelis still value.”

Netanyahu is trying to play the victim. Will he get away with it?, Washington Post

Gershom Gorenberg argues, “ Eventually, at least one coalition partner will decide not to be stained by association with a four-term prime minister who allegedly preferred cigars, champagne and sycophantic news coverage to his country’s welfare. The essential flaw in Netanyahu’s strategy is that he’s not a victim. He’s the man who has grown used to thinking that power is his personal property. And after the police recommendations, it might not take all that long for his support to crumble.”

In Pursuit of Peace, Trump Generates Rare Friction With Netanyahu, The New York Times

Mark Landler writes, “Even before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s legal setback this week, a rare fissure had opened up between him and President Trump. The White House rebutted reports that he and the Americans had discussed annexing parts of the West Bank, and Mr. Trump voiced fresh concerns about Israel’s openness to a peace accord….Analysts said the White House would need more than a few sharp-edged statements toward Israel to persuade the Palestinians that the process was not stacked against them. In private, administration officials are scathing about Mr. Abbas and the Palestinian leadership.”


Attorney general hails police for ‘thorough, professional’ probe of Netanyahu, Times of Israel

In his first public appearance since police published recommendations to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Thursday dismissed reports of a rift between state prosecutors and the police, hailing the police investigators and the quality of the work they did during the year-long probe.

Israel to Deny Tax Breaks, Government Bids From Local Groups Calling for Boycott, Haaretz

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is set to approve in the coming days new regulations to prevent organizations and individuals who support a boycott of Israel from receiving various tax breaks or from participating in government bids. The new regulation will apply to Israeli citizens too. Officials in the Strategic Affairs Ministry – which initiated and wrote the draft version of the regulations on the basis of Israel’s boycott law – expect a list of Israeli citizens and organizations who support BDS may be compiled, alongside the existing list of foreign groups that promote BDS.

Palestinians threaten protests over new Damascus Gate watchposts, Times of Israel

A security watchpost installed at an entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem on Wednesday night has angered the Palestinians, who are accusing Israel of “changing the Arab and Islamic character” of the city. Palestinians said Thursday they were planning a series of protests to demand the removal of the two-story structure at the Damascus Gate, the main entrance into the walled city’s Muslim Quarter.

Court rules Eritrean draft dodgers eligible for asylum in Israel, Times of Israel

An Israeli appeals court on Monday ruled that Eritreans who deserted military service in their home country and came to Israel have grounds to be considered asylum seekers. The decision could affect thousands of Eritreans who are facing deportation under a new Israeli law.

Opinions and Analysis

Netanyahu’s True Nightmare Isn’t Criminal Indictment but the Israeli Public’s Contempt, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev observes, “Netanyahu is trying to persuade the public of his glorious service on behalf of the nation so that his behavior, as it is portrayed in the police report, won’t spark the scorn that it deserves. His public campaign is aimed at dissuading the attorney general from accepting the police findings but also to divert the public’s attention from the nefarious behavior that they expose.”

International pressure on Israeli settlements renews push for US anti-boycott laws, Al-Monitor

Bryant Harris reports, “Pro-Israel groups are doubling down on their efforts to pass anti-boycott legislation in Congress after a string of recent setbacks….The ACLU’s victory in Kansas and its challenge to the Israel Anti-Boycott Act have forced some pro-Israel advocates to seek a balance between preserving constitutional rights and cracking down on boycotts of Israel and Israeli settlements.”

The Real Bombshell of Netanyahu’s Bribery Affair: Challenger Yair Lapid, Haaretz

Ravit Hecht argues, “Without hazarding a foolish prediction, the most intriguing political aspect of the upheaval Tuesday night is the making of Benjamin Netanyahu’s heir as prime minister. Given the silence of the right wing after the police recommended that Netanyahu be indicted for corruption, and the knee-jerk defense of the prime minister by his minions, the dramatic role of Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid is of mounting importance.”

For Desperate Palestinians In Gaza, Rage Has Turned Into Suicidal Despair, Forward

Mohammed Shehada writes, “Hamas fears that people are so frustrated with the entire status quo that protests would undermine Hamas’s authority. And it’s a status quo that’s rapidly deteriorating. Food and supplies are in short supply, and bank accounts are dwindling to nothing. There is little to no electricity some days. People are dying waiting for permits to enter Israel for medical attention.”